I have written extensively on the efforts by the Washington Department of Ecology to revise Washington’s Water Quality Standards to account for a higher fish consumption rate. This summer was when we were supposed to see the final rule be submitted to EPA for review and possible approval. In a nutshell, the controversy around this rule has to do with the upward revision in the fish consumption rate used to calculate Washington’s Water Quality Standards. That revision (from 6.5 grams per day to 175 grams per day) would result in more stringent WQS for many toxics—with the fear among dischargers being that those new criteria would be unattainable. Governor Inslee’s proposed solution—now over a year old—was to revise the excess cancer risk rate used in the WQS calculation from one in a million to one in one hundred thousand, and then couple the revised WQS with a package of regulatory efforts designed to address toxics from diffuse sources.

Continue Reading

This is another in the series of guest posts authored by the consultants we work with and trust. Owen Reese is a Water Resources Engineer at Aspect Consulting approached us and offered to provide Aspect’s perspective on Ecology’s efforts to update its Water Quality Assessment for freshwater. We eagerly took Owen up on the offer because this work by Ecology has the potential to impact a number of dischargers throughout Washington State and fits well into Science Law and the Environment’s editorial goal of analyzing the intersection of science, law, and policy.

-Doug Steding

The Washington State Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) recently proposed updates to Washington’s Water Quality Assessment for freshwater, as required by sections 303(d) and 305(b) of the Clean Water Act. This list is important because it identifies which waters require water cleanup plans and could result in additional requirements for NPDES permit holders discharging to waters identified as impaired.

Ecology is seeking public comment until May 15, and is currently hosting a series of listening sessions to introduce the proposed changes in the Water Quality Assessment. The remaining sessions are: April 15 in Yakima, and April 16 in Spokane Valley. I attended the first session in Edmonds on April 7. This article summarizes my key takeaways from the presentations, with particular attention to potential effects to NPDES permittees.
Continue Reading

As directed by Governor Inslee back in July, the Washington Department of Ecology released a preliminary draft rule that will ultimately lead to the amendment of Washington’s Water Quality Standards for toxics. This is the next step in a multi-year process under which Washington is adjusting its WQS to account for a higher fish

Ruling from the bench on Friday, Judge H. Russel Holland dismissed Pebble Limited Partnership’s claims that the EPA overstepped its authority in initiating proceedings under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. (The written opinion is here.) EPA advised Pebble Partnership by letter in February 2014 that it was beginning the process under 404(c)